Over the past handful of years, I've really fallen in love with the world of Dungeons&Dragons. It's been a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the classroom, a coping mechanism during the pandemic, and a way for me to watch the players who participate grow and develop into characters that will always hold a special place in my heart. I just wanted to talk a little bit about what D&D has meant to me over the past few years and highlight some of the crazier, funnier moments my players have put me through.
When I first started DM-ing, I really had no clue what it was going to be like. As many experience, I had grand dreams of following in the footsteps of Dungeon Masters like Matt Mercer, Griffon McElroy, and Brennan Lee Mulligan. Boy, was that stripped away quickly or what? I didn't know what any of the combat systems were like, I had only briefly read over the books and I was working with players who had never experienced the game before. Suffice to say, it fell apart pretty quickly my first go around with D&D.
So, I decided I needed to sit back, really dig into what made the game, and start working on something entirely my own. Enter my first homebrew campaign. It, like the boys from "The Adventure Zone" started off in the classic module of "The Mines of Phandelver" but quickly became something more. As they hacked and slashed their way through zombies, spiders, and a dragon, I started seeing their individual personalities shine through the characters they'd placed on paper. Our half-orc was facing the prejudices of never really belonging to one race or another. Our elven rogue was being haunted by the death of a long-passed lover. We had players kidnapped, beating each other up in arena combat, and eventually, leaving the party to fuel their own rage-induced mission of destruction.
I had to step away from that party when I left to study abroad, but I'll never forget the group that really kicked off my love for being a Dungeon Master.
After that, I started diving further and further into my own stories. I spent a good portion of my time abroad building a Disney-based campaign and creating all the characters off classics like, Merida, Maui, Crush and others. I pitted friends from Mexico, Germany, England, and the States against each other as I ran to campaigns side-by-side, watching them affect one another as each session rolled on. It really started testing the limits of what I could handle and helped me understand that sometimes, your players are just going to jump into the fray with little regards for the consequences. (Yes, Tom, I'm looking at you and your ability to literally derail entire plot hooks. Love you!)
And recently, with my current group, we've just celebrated our first, full year of playing the same campaign together. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic (I feel like this is in at least 70% of my recent posts), we've had to maintain a digital distance between ourselves when engaging in sessions. I won't lie, it's been tough. There's usually some sort of technical malfunction, folks feel like they're talked over, and really it's just hard to connect when you can't freely bounce off each other in conversation and action. But, through it all, they've done an amazing job of sticking to it and really trying to make sure that they engage in the story they've helped create over the past year.
And so, as I continue to grow as a Dungeon Master, (and player now!) I've been trying to understand what it really is that I'm chasing after within the sessions. Last night, Heather explained to me that there's been this "combat high" she felt years ago, during the D&Disney campaign, where they really felt like they might not make it through the battle that I'd laid out before them. I guess that's what I'm looking for now, that high that I'm chasing.
But for now, I think I'm going to just enjoy the ride. The players that I've been able to interact with over the year and, quite literally, put on a show for have become a found family that I never knew I really needed. Especially during a time where we all feel so disconnected. They've stolen away NPC's that we ABSOLUTELY NOT SUPPOSED TO GO WITH THEM, broken down barriers with Natural 20's, and defeated every conceivable creature I can throw at them.
Now, as we enter into the next chapter of the pandemic, I've started looking for ways that we can still be safe and not lose sight of the campaign. We've hosted smaller meet-up's for players comfortable holding in-person sessions, I've tried to stay in contact with players through our chats, and even given the option of solo sessions for anyone looking to build on their character or train. It's all a work in progress that changes with each bit of news we get about the world.
I look forward to what these players are going to do and what future players are going to bring to the table. In fact, I'm starting up a semi-modern campaign that is going to be just fantastic.
Stay safe, see you again next time, look for episode 1 of the podcast mid-August!